As most readers of the Friday Four Pack are probably aware, we are very big fans of Revolution Brewing’s barrel program. Over the last year, we’ve featured almost every single one of their releases in our write ups and even had VSOJ as one of our favorite beers from 2021. So this week, instead of our usual beer review, we’re back to share with you an incredible experience we recently had benefitting an even more incredible cause.
Back in December, we became aware of an auction to benefit Lurie Children’s Hospital.
Doug Veliky, Chief Strategy Officer at Revolution, has been on a mission to improve the experience of children undergoing Medical Imaging procedures at Lurie’s. Most medical imaging rooms are sterile and scary, especially for little kids. Doug and his family have done an awesome job raising money to commission art murals to transform these rooms into fun, inviting environments to make challenging situations that much easier to deal with while also ensuring technicians are in the best possible position to capture high quality images. This year, Doug and his family set out to raise over $150,000 to create a Child Life Specialist position at Lurie’s dedicated to helping children and families as they undergo these life saving procedures.
The auction was for the Ultimate VSOR Experience at Revolution which included a straight from the barrel tasting with barrel master Marty Scott, a canning day visit, and draft variant previews.
Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity and was lucky enough to win the auction.
Originally scheduled for early January, COVID-19 had other plans for the Ultimate VSOR tasting and we decided to push it off for the Summer Deep Wood release.
Fast forward 6 months and the time had finally come to taste the Summer Deep Wood beers as well as a few other choice barrels. If you haven’t heard, at the end of July, Revolution will be releasing 3 barrel aged beers- Lumberstruck, Thundertaker, and Coconut Deth. They also announced the craft beer equivalent to the Holy Grail- Double Barrel VSOJ, scheduled for a January 2023 release.
The tasting started with a tour of Revolution’s Chicago Kedzie facility led by Marty.
Marty has been at Revolution for over 11 years and knows the place inside and out. Marty has taught classes at Siebel Institute and has multiple FOBAB medals to his credit. His second-best beer last year won Runner Up Best in Show at FOBAB.
And after talking with Marty, it’s clear there is no one more passionate about making world class barrel aged beer.
After the tour, it was time to get down to business and taste some big, dumb beers straight from the barrel stacks.
A quick note on the Rev stacks- while they’re very visible on the taproom floor, the space is so big they don’t overwhelm you. But when you actually get into them, it’s literally like being in the lumber section at Menards. Total immersion in American Oak.
Much to our surprise, we started off with a real treat- Double Barrel VSOJ.
Again, as we’ve mentioned several times in the last year, VSOJ is the crème de la crème of barrel aged beers. It’s this big, huge barleywine that is incredibly complex- full of toffee, raisin, chocolate, and caramel.
After talking to Marty, you understand just what makes it so good.
Making these beers isn’t about a great bourbon barrel or hitting the nail right on the head. That just doesn’t happen.
It’s about aiming left and right, and then blending it together to yield something balanced and complex.
It’s about aging those sugars as long as possible in the highest quality environment to concentrate the flavors and alcohol and then balancing it all out for a skull melting experience.
DBVSOJ takes the legend of VSOJ to the next level by adding even more time in oak. While the double barrel version still has about 6 months to go in barrels, we assure you that it will not disappoint.
Next up, we pulled Thundertaker. This is the second vintage of the Revolution/Binny’s barrel aged collab and Marty assured us it would blow the first version out of the water. I sort of rolled my eyes when he said this because the first version was so, so good.
He has to say that, right?
And then we tasted it. Clearly, Marty isn’t the kind of guy who’s going to bullshit you. He’s going to say it just like he tastes it. Yep. It’s better.
While we sampled several other beers, the last one we’ll mention here is Lumberstruck. Lumberstruck is a new concept for Rev that marries unique beer to breathtaking barrels. The inaugural edition is a Black Barleywine aged in Saxum Vineyards wine barrels.
As I alluded to earlier, everyone (myself included) seems to get suckered into the stories about the barrels. Oh it’s a Pappy Barrel so the beer must be good. 18 months in Weller barrels? BEST BEER EVER. It’s too easy to fall for.
What jumped out to me most about Lumberstruck was just how unique the beer was. It wasn’t the barrels per se, it was that it didn’t taste like any other barrel aged Revolution beer I’d had before. It didn’t taste like Straight Jacket- not even close. Lumberstruck is packed full of dark fruits and a strawberry Twizzlers note that emphasizes the vinous port character of the barrels. We can’t wait to taste more of the final product.
As we wrap up this post and head into the holiday weekend, we want to thank Doug, Marty, and all the folks at Revolution not only for an incredible experience but for all the work they’re doing for great causes. While the beers were great, the time, stories, and passion Marty shared with us was even more memorable. If you’re interested in learning more about what Doug is doing for Lurie’s, check it out here. And be sure to stay tuned for a future Friday Four Pack following canning day for the full rundown on the Summer Deep Wood lineup! We hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July weekend!